Â Câ€™ttee to submit final report Tuesday
Damilola Oyedele in Abuja
The suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, for the third time, failed to appear before the Senate ad hoc committee investigating the mounting humanitarian crises in the North-east.
The committee however noted that it would submit its final report of the investigations next Tuesday.
Lawal was summoned to appear before the committee yesterday over alleged contract scams under the Presidential Initiatives on the North East (PINE), which he oversaw as SGF, and to explain the role of his company, Rholavision Engineering, in a controversial grass-cutting contract of N200million.
An interim report of the Senator Shehu Sani (Kaduna Central) led committee had indicted Lawal for inflated and fictitious contracts amounting to N2.5 billion, and called for his suspension from office and prosecution. President Muhammadu Buhari had however written to the Senate, picking holes in its reports and indicating that Lawal was not given a chance at fair hearing.
Buhariâ€™s position prompted the committee to resolved to re-open the investigations for Lawal to appear on March 14, 2017. Lawal had however failed to honour the invitation, initially writing to the committee that he had gone to court to challenge his summons, then making a U-Turn and then requested for another date to appear.
A new date was scheduled; April 27, 2017, but Lawal again failed to appear, nor did he send any communication to the committee, whose members waited for him for two hours; 10a.m, to 12 noon.
The Chairman, Senator Shehu Sani, said two letters were sent to the former SGF, one to his former office and the other to his home. The letter to Lawalâ€™s home could however not be delivered as the security men refused to take it, allegedly stating that they have been instructed not to receive any correspondence, Sani disclosed.
He added that the deliberate choice by Lawal to shun the probe which was intended to provide him a chance at fair hearing, would not stop the committee from submitting its final report next Tuesday.
â€œWe thought that now he is under suspension, he would have enough time to be here. Now we are here since 10a.m. waiting for him and its now 12. It is clear to us that he is not appearing. We would certainly go ahead and present our report on the floor of the Senate based on the fact and figures, we have with us at our disposal,â€ Sani said.
â€œWe see this as deliberate choice to absent himself from this committee, and we believe that the general public has seen how we all tried to give the man opportunity to defend himself publicly. This is a public hearing, and we insisted that it should be open to all Nigerians to come and hear his own side of the story,â€ the Chairman added.
â€œWe know the implication of indicting a person, it goes to his records, his personality, his history and his legacy, and it is on the grounds of that ,we felt such a historical mark, should be done with all fairness, and justice. We did that to the best of our ability, but since he has decided to absent himself, we declare this a no show for him, and that would not in anyway stop us from presenting our report on the floor of the senate, next week,â€ Sani added.
Senator Ben Murray Bruce (Bayelsa East) again emphasised that the issues raised in President Muhammadu Buhariâ€™s letter were incorrect.
The letter dated January 24, 2017 had claimed that the interim report was signed by only three out of the nine members, and that Lawal was not invited to state his side of the story.
Bruce stated that seven members signed the report, including himself.
â€œIt is very sad that we are here today to conclude our investigation on this very important matter, and the former SGF did not show up. This is like a man holding a knife with a jagged edge and stabbing himself. Had he shown up, maybe he could have clarified a couple of issues, maybe the report would not be the way we intend to send it to our colleagues on Tuesday, maybe he could have resolved some issues,â€ he said.
Bruce, speaking further said, â€œthis is a lesson for any government official, when they are invited to the Senate, they should show up, they should do the right thing to communicate with us, so it gives them a chance for fair hearing. In view of the fact that he hasnâ€™t, I guess our work is done.â€
Lawal who was suspended by the president last week, is currently being investigated by a three-man committee headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
The Osinbajo committee has since requested that the Senate committee submit documents relevant to the allegations against Lawal.